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How to Survive the Basic Training Phase of an Air Force Career

Before you can call yourself an airman in the Air Force, you have to get through that often dreaded program called Basic Training -- sometimes called “boot camp.” This training is meant to be tough, and you can guarantee that you’ll be subjected to a rigorous schedule. It will test your physical abilities, ability to follow orders, work in a group, and perhaps most importantly, your mental fortitude.

It’s not going to be easy, but fortunately for you, basic training only lasts about two months -- roughly eight weeks for the U.S. Air Force and 10 weeks for the U.K.’s Royal Air Force, for example. That might not seem like a lot of time, but it could feel like an eternity if you’re not prepared for what’s ahead, both mentally and physically.

To prepare yourself for the journey and to survive basic training, here are some things you should be doing.

Start preparing early

If you don’t give yourself at least two months to start getting your physical health in order, there’s a good chance you’re going to feel pretty miserable during the first few weeks of basic training. Being young and in good physical health does not automatically equate to being in good physical condition, and to get there takes time.

Follow a recommended training schedule -- and then some

Check out the recommended training schedule offered by your recruiters, or use resources such as to get a list of what you should be doing. Generally though, you should start by doing  two sets of 10 to 12 pushups, sit ups and pull ups three or four days a week, as well as doing a run-walk circuit for at least 20 minutes three or four days a week.

Gradually, decrease the amount of walking you’re doing and increase the length of time until you’re up to at least 30 minutes of running, five days a week. Also increase the number of pull ups, situps and pushups you do until you’re able to do pushups or situps for a full minute without stopping. In addition, adding weight training to your routine will increase your physical stamina.

Eat a healthy diet

If you’re training and feeding your body junk, you’re going to have a much harder time. Focus on complex carbohydrates, about 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, and plenty of fruits and vegetables to get the nutrition your body needs.

Get your relationships in order

In most cases, you’re going to be out of touch with your loved ones during basic training -- and that can be extremely hard for some recruits. Ahead of training, spend some special time with each of your loved ones and let them know you’ll be thinking of them. However, be sure you and everyone else knows it’s going to be a period of very little -- if any -- contact. Also get your finances in order so someone can pay your bills in your absence.

Bring a few items from home -- but stay within the rules

Check the list of allowed items to ensure you’re not breaking the rules. Generally, you’ll be allowed a few photos, some stationery for writing letters, and media that is religious in nature -- but you won’t be allowed many of the comfort items you’re used to. As you get ready, realize that you’re in for a rigorous training period, and that means letting go of many of the items you’re used to.

Be helpful and confident

Don’t talk back or be insubordinate to your training team, but at the same time, don’t act like a weakling either. In the spirit of teamwork, help your fellow recruits when you can. A confident, team-oriented attitude will get you far during basic training.

It might seem like the two months crawls by -- but then again, you’re going to be so busy that you might be surprised at how quickly the time goes. You’ll get through it.

Image: iStock

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